(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – The key responsibility of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, is to fight for the welfare of workers, and one of the key elements in workers welfare is their wages.
From administration to administration, labour leaders have demanded for lifts in the minimum wage, a demand when implemented, robs off positively on the general take home pay of all workers.
However, the problem, with benefit of hindsight is not the approval by the Federal Government, but rather the ability of the states to pay, since whatever is approved at the centre applies at the state and local government levels.
In the past, this has been a problem, and we do not know what has been done by the Federal Government to ensure that, in the process of trying to address an issue in Abuja, that we don’t create new problems for the states, some of who are still owing salaries and pensions in spite of the Paris Club Refund largesse from the Federal Government.
It is our considered opinion that, whatever new wage that is being proposed by the Federal Government has the blessing of the states until such a time when labour matters, especially wages are moved out of the exclusive list in the constitution to enable each state pay according to their abilities.
It is reassuring that Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,SGF, while speaking at a dinner and award night organised to mark the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, 40th Anniversary in Abuja has confirmed that things are difficult for Nigerians for which he is raising hope of a new minimum wage for workers in tune with current economic realities.
Speaking at the event, the SGF said that “the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage was inaugurated to review the National Minimum Wage”, and that “the committee is determined to complete its assignment before the end of this year”.
He also said that “the outcome of the assignment would address the issue of social imbalance, inequality and the wide gap of poverty in the country”.
While we commend the optimism of Mr Boss Mustapha, may we also let him know that the preponderant population of Nigerians who are negatively affected by the emergent harsh economic realities are unemployed and the self employed.
There is therefore an urgent need for the Federal Government to carry out manpower audit in its departments and agencies with a view to filling the existing vacancies. In our opinion, this move will help in dousing the tension in the polity, especially if the employment is not skewed very unfairly as it has become the tradition, in favour of those in government.
We wish to also observe that providing fairly more regular electricity will bring more relief to Nigerians than the so called new minimum wage. The reason is simple: With regular supply of electricity, Nigeria’s development will be on auto pilot, as power will provide the much needed platform for Nigerians to showcase their ingenuity, and for the young ones in particular to leverage on the opportunities and abundant information in the internet to be productively engaged.
We are not against a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers but are insisting on a holistic approach that enlists the contribution of, and also takes into consideration the interest of all stakeholders.
In a way, raising the hopes of workers on a new minimum wage when we are going into elections may seem an attractive political decision to some, but we are worried that its implementation, especially at the other tiers of government may become a very big challenge for the governors,